Was 'Terminator Salvation' Misunderstood? [One Giant Afterthought]

If you have read my review (or have heard from other people) then you would know the consensus is this: an underwritten movie that was most likely sabotaged by bad final editing. I have high hopes that the DVD will present the true, unedited version that McG intended upon releasing, but for now Terminator Salvation is nothing more than a brainless action flick filled to the brim with special effects and action.

But is it as brainless as we may have thought?

I recently read an article claiming that it understood why this new reboot starring Christian Bale was not in its true nature a Terminator movie. He claimed that the increased focus and purpose of the character of Marcus Wright goes against what the previous films in the franchise showed: a plain black and white fight between the protector sent from the future and the terminator. It's not this man's article that has me thinking, but rather one of the comments below.

The poster, CJF, had a fascinating viewpoint of Salvation that really made me rethink my view on the film. CJF wrote in response to the article as follows (along with some bolding to show the more important parts of what he is trying to say):

I think people like you are really missing the deeper message in this movie. The underlying story is all about how the one character with real love and heart was the machine, Marcus Wright.

The characters, including John Connor, were designed to be dull and lifeless throughout the movie. Let me emphasize: THIS WAS BY DESIGN, not a mistake by the director. 15 straight years of war had made all the human beings lose their humanity. Marcus Wright did not grow up in a post-apocalpytic world and even he, a criminal in his time, was more human and had more "heart" than anyone living in the current world.

John Connor had not yet become the great hero portrayed in visions of earlier movies because he had yet to learn to discern what real humanity is. He finally learned this at the end of the movie, and gained Marcus's "heart", both physically and metaphorically. This is the final enabler that will prepare him as the true leader of the resistance, unlike Ironside's character who gave up his humanity and, in the end, his life and position in the resistance.

The drab, gray landscape, the quarrel between the gas station tribe about giving food, the ignorance of Kate Brewster's pregnancy and the lifeless characters (other than Marcus) were all BY DESIGN to contrast how mankind lacked the humanity to succeed.

When I walked out of the theater, I thought the way you do, "oh what an uninspiring, mess of a movie". Now, I've begun to understand the hidden message here. In my revised opinion, I now believe this movie is the best of the entire Terminator series because it has a deeper message than the previous films. To me it is not a popcorn thriller like T1-T3, but an intense examination of the heart of a human being.
So please, think a little deeper at the hidden message of this film. McG has taken "Terminator" a step further than Cameron ever could.“

Basically, what CJF is saying is that Terminator Salvation was intentionally crafted in such a way that it was supposed to be the ultimate metaphor and represent in a subtle way the kind of despair humans were suffering from during this war against the machines. Humans are really on the losing side in this film and by the end of the film, things may be looking more hopeful.

However, none of that would be possible without Marcus Wright. Despite the fact that he was yet another machine from Skynet, his consciousness from when he was human had been preserved and therefore his spirit and belief in humanity had been unaffected by this no-end-in-sight war. And there is the ultimate irony of the film: a supposedly heartless killing machine had more heart and a better understanding of what humanity was than real humans. Marcus even was more of a human than the foretold messiah of the human resistance, John Connor.

It is my belief that many, including myself, walked into this movie expecting to see John Connor as the last man holding the resistance together and that his character was supposed to be likable. It now comes to my understanding that, in fact he was deliberately written in a way that he was unlikable and was more or less confused by his destiny. John was obsessed with trying to discover why he was the leader and why he was meant to save the human race; he did nothing except trying to seek out his fate when it was coming to him in the unlikely form of Marcus.

At the end of the film, John has been fatally injured in his heart by the T-1000 terminator (which many would affectionately name “Arnie”) and that he was dying. Marcus decided to sacrifice himself and his strong, mechanical heart to John as one final act of true humanity and an important lesson for John for the future.

When you look at the film in this perspective, it really is genius. Terminator Salvation would have been the best one out of the entire franchise, possibly even better than the acclaimed T2: Judgment Day. The only problem is this: we don't know if this is true. This could just be one really smart-minded fanboy using a really, really, really good excuse to justify a movie that was considered disappointing.

Whether this was the intention of the writers and director McG or not, there is still one major issue with Salvation: character development was almost completely non-existent. The characters' development could have been the key to the movie succeeding. However it seems the studios tampered with the film to try and get a much more family-friendly PG-13 rating instead of the traditionally R-rated Terminator films. They also may have decided to add more action which would explain where the character development went.

If anything was gained from pondering over the film's messy structure it is this: I really can't wait for the uncut version.


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